VANCOUVER—UNICEF Canada is urging all party leaders and candidates to make children’s well-being and rights a priority issue during the election campaign.
UNICEF notes that children comprise almost a quarter of Canada’s population, yet their voices are rarely heard in national politics.
The organization is asking all candidates to sign its new Charter for Children, which outlines major priorities that will improve the well-being of children. The charter was sent to every party leader and federal election candidate, asking for their formal support.
“Currently, there is no one in the federal government with the primary responsibility to consider the well-being of Canada’s children,” David Morley, UNICEF Canada’s president and CEO, said in a release.
“There is no minister for children, no children’s commissioner, no parliamentary children’s caucus or committee to ensure the impacts on children are considered in legislation, policy and services.”
Many countries, including England, Scotland, and Sweden, have an independent national children’s commissioner who helps to ensure decisions are made in consideration of children.
UNICEF’s Charter for Children outlines six priorities for the candidates, the first being “pay attention” to issues affecting children and advocate for the appointment of an independent or parliamentary voice for children in the absence of a mandated national children’s advocate or commissioner in the federal government.
With Canada having one of the largest income gaps between rich and poor children among developed countries, UNICEF is asking the candidates to give children the “best start” by closing the child poverty gap in Canada.
The charter also calls on the federal and provincial governments to make their expenditures for children transparent, as UNICEF notes that it is unclear if money spent is sufficient or effective.
UNICEF is also asking the candidates to close the gap in life chances for aboriginal children, do Canada’s “fair share” for children in developing countries, and increase investment for maternal, newborn, and child health as part of a global effort to save lives.
With the federal election coming up on May 2, UNICEF says it will continue to reach out to candidates and Canadians to ask them to become “champions” for Canadian children.
Visit www.unicef.ca/vote2011 for responses by party leaders and candidates.